What games have taught me

I got some time off and been playing Diablo 3 again. I changed my witch doctor's build and only now is it working for me. And it got me thinking about what games are teaching me again.

I see analogies between the business I run and creating a build for a D3 character. And it goes like this:

Your business strategy come form an idea, a concept, you roughly work out those concepts and test them live. And you always, always have to iterate and change the ideas ever so slightly.

I usually start of new games playing barbarians. And in my last post I mentioned that I made the mistake of wanting a burly two handed Barb dishing out tons of damage, but what I actually wanted to do is jump into a crowd of monsters and whirlwind like crazy till they are all mush. Then the two handed idea conflicts with the fact that you are jumping into a ton of monsters that quickly turn YOU into mush. So just changing to a 1-handed/shield barb with some defensive skills have made him a powerhouse.

As a business owner you also have to know what resources you have and what they can do for you. My first D3 character was actually a monk and I got frustrated playing him and switched to a Barb. until I figured out that my problem was that I was treating my monk like a barb. A monk runs in dishes out tons of damage and then runs back out. He utterly destroys single targets, but has to manage the battlefield. You have to know what your resource can do for you.

More or less the same thing happened with my witch doctor, who is killing it now.

Then you take that knowledge and turn it into experience....

I will be creating a fire wizard next, but since he will rely on meteor as his main form of damage, I need to have frost nova to cc the monsters since the meteor strikes take time to hit. Originally I wanted to create an all fire wizard, but knowing how rules of the game (of life & business as well) I know beforehand what will be needed.

Knowledge = Power! (If turned into experience :))

On a side note, I was off yesterday, my girlfriend is outta town and I finished Tomb Raider in two sittings. I feel like I am 14 again. :)

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Two things by Ryan

Wow, Ryan's gone.

And the crazy part is the sense of loss I feel for somebody that I never met. But I've been listening to the podcast since it was still a skype call at arrow pointing down.

These guys not only keep me informed about videogames, they also keep me entertained and show me how to do what you love for a living, give it that personal touch and still keep it professional. The fact that Jeff & Ryan started GB after that catastrophe at Gamespot is inspirational to me in many ways and was a guideline when I had to decide whether or not to start a new company.

These two clips are the things that always get me laughing and these are just the ones I remember from the top of my head out of thousands of moments during many hours of podcasts. It also reminds me to enjoy life since Ryan was two years younger than me.

Just Ryan being Ryan: wtf are you saying!!!????

That first sentence together with his facial expression always gets to me: Fucking ridiculous.

RIP Duder, you enriched my life and are an inspiration.

Jason

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Diablo 3 & what games taught me/are teaching me

Wow.

Before I start, I just checked the date of my last blog here: December 27th 2011. And there is a reason for that. In December of 2011 my then girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend, went on a Christmas cruise to the Bahamas. Due to Christmas I had a break from the company we ran together and I had 2 weeks time off, so I tried to catch up to all the games I really wanted to play.

Then work started again in January and it was a crazy month with a 5 year celebration of the company, which ended up being the last celebration of the company due to a really messy breakup in February. The rest of the year I was left finding my bearings and deciding what to do. I ended up starting a new company in the same industry. I started the new company while living with a friend, sleeping on the couch and also falling crazy in love with my new girlfriend. (This always happens to me btw, when I am not looking I meet somebody. But this girl really is something else) So now that everything is more or less stabilized, I have some more time to play games.

I did still buy Diablo 3 on launch day, but didn't have time to blow through it like I did with Diablo 2. I still played as much as I can, but between starting up the new company and wanting to spend time with my new girlfriend, I really didn't have a lot of spare time on my hands. Nonetheless, I do have a level 60 Monk, Barbarian & Wizard which I leveled in burst gameplay everytime I had an hour to spare. It's interesting to see how different these 3 classes play. I am currently working on a Witch-doctor and trying to get the achievement for leveling all 5 classes to 60. My monk used to be my main, but then I switched over to the Barbarian. I also have a Hardcore Barbarian, whom I have specced defensively, so I wanted this Barbarian to be an offense focused character. I also remember loving the whirlwind skill in Diablo 2, so I also wanted to make whirlwind the skill around which I build this Barb.

Getting the build to make this work though proved to be a challenge to me, mainly because I had the wrong mindset. When I first started playing Diablo 3 I still had the rule in my head from Diablo 2: Damage is King. Back in the day increasing your dps was all you would focus on. I made that mistake on my Monk too, until I started watching some Diablo 3 videos on youtube and noticed that at least half the skills these people were using were damage mitigation and crowd control. So I changed my Monk with this in mind and it worked! I switched over to my Monk again and played him way more than my Barb.

But the the fact that the Barb build was not working still annoyed me. The idea behind the Barb was that he would leap into a crowd of monsters and whirlwind around and massacre the group. I wanted to rely on two passive skills for this: Berserker Rage & Unforgiving. Obviously these compliment each other and greatly increase your damage output. The problem with this is that the active skills to mitigate damage just can't keep you alive when you jump into a big pack of monsters. In other words: I was STILL thinking the wrong way, namely the old way: Damage is King. Now of course it all makes sense, but it took me awhile, a lot of deaths and a lot of gold to repair equipment to realize that. Once I realized why exactly the build wasn't working, the first build I tried after that worked like a charm.

I have another personal blog where I used to talk about the good things games have taught me, like improving my command of the English language and I found myself thinking the same thing when I realized what I was doing wrong. Now that I realize what I was doing wrong with the build, it was easy to find a build that works. Looking back at my old relationship, I realized why the things that happened happened and why I never realized what was wrong with the relationship or what I could've and should've done. Basically the things that make me tick (my build :P) are not compatible with the relationship I was in. But I can only see that now that I am in a relationship where my build works. :)

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Just a general update

Oh wow,

Just about finished the first week I was off for this year. And it was awesome! I was planning on finishing up a couple of games I had started like FFXII, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect and catch up on the new patch in WoW. I was also planning on S-ranking some downloadables like Outland, Bastion, Final FIght, Pixel-junk shooter & such.

Then the steam holiday contest happened and I am chasing all these stupid achievements. It has introduced me to a couple of cool new games though, but I had to turn off the feature on raptr that tweeted when I played a game for the first time, because it was spamming like crazy. I am almost to 30 of these crazy achievements with a couple more to unlock. (planning on playing through dawn of war this week)

It's not as I had planned it, but I am having a great time! It is the first time this year that I have no obligations and can game as much as I want. My girlfriend doesn't mind either since she needs some movie time for herself as well. Though she occupies either my 360 or PS3 while she's doing that

And my game before bed is Metroid: Zero Mission. When I am through that one, I'll be firing up Crisis Core: Final Fantasy.

Like I said, I be having a damn good time.

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The formula for hack 'n slash dungeon crawlers

The thing about hack 'n slash dungeon crawlers is that the combat needs to be astoundingly excellent. Since the combat is 99% of your activity, it needs to feel right. Games like Dragon Age or even Baldur's Gate have you infatuated with the world, your party setup, character building & role-playing & you role in the world. 
 
Your goal for games like Diablo & other action rpg's is: Kill everything! 
 
But even then the formula is hit or miss. The thing I think is important is this: Overkill! Since the only thing you are doing is slaying monsters, you need some sensory overload accompanying this. I remember that in Diablo 2 we had Druids running around whilst being the center of a Maelstrom, Sorceress' would 25 lightning bolts as fast as you could click. Same goes for the Amazon firing 15 arrows at the same time, or the Barbarian whirl-winding across the screen tearing up everything in sight.  
 
Thats the kind of overkill that I generally miss from other Diablo-like games. They lack that excitement. 
 
Having said that, it looks as if Diablo 3 is shaping up to be exactly what I just described. (See the runes explanation here: http://eu.blizzard.com/diablo3/world/systems/runestones.xml
 
I am stoked!

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Gears 3

Just unlocked my gold skin for the Retro Lancer in Gears 3 and I am calculating that I now need 20 kills a night to unlock that skin in the retail version.


I think this new way of getting people interested to play your beta and at the same time invested in your upcoming game is absolutely brilliant. I own both gears 1 and 2 and I might have like 10 hours total invested into the Multi-Player of it. First of I kinda suck at twitch gaming (except Starcraft 2, I am actually getting better at it) and the community skills grow like mad in these types of games. The hurdle to overcome is just huge as you as a noob will be taken out again and again before you can get off a shot. The uphill climb is very steep. 

I have now invested loads of time into the beta and unlocked the Thrashball Cole costume for the retail version. I am now contemplating buying the game at release to get a little bit of a head-start as well in the Multi-player. I even went back to Gears 2 multi-player when I saw that you could unlock a chrome skin, but I just don't have the time. I do hope I have the time to unlock it and still have a chance to unlock the gold retro lancer in retail. I even curbed my WoW time to be able to get this and patch 4.1 just came out! SC2 is also low-key now, but my zerg-timings are getting better. 

I do hope I have the time to get those 20 kills a night as we are coming up to a very busy period at work.  But I can hope, can I?

Also this game sounds amazing on my new surround set. I worked to get finally own a quality home theater set-up and it makes me think to back in the day when i was still studying and had to rent a N64 to play Zelda in my small-ass TV. 

To all you younguns, stick with it. It's really rewarding when you can finally play these games the way they were meant to be played on a system, TV and home theater setup you yourself worked hard to get. 
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Re-capturing our childhood

So 2 weeks ago I was kind of doing nothing at 1 in the morning when I decided to check out the virtual console offerings. I hadn't checked the releases for the last 6 months and then I found out the Final Fantasy 6 had been released! Happiness all around since this one was the last one of the big titles I was missing! I immediately bought it and checked if it was as I remembered. Now that I own Final Fantasy 6 as well, I now own all major releases of Final Fantasy. 
  
So now that we have established that I am a big fan and proud owner of all the titles, let's look at the problem here. The problem is that  when I look back at how many of the games I have actually played all the way through I get stuck on just 4 of em. Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy 6,  Final Fantasy 7 & Final Fantasy Tactics. (that last one I imported) All the other games I have started at some point (sometimes multiple times) and then stopped playing halfway through or even earlier. It's not that I don't enjoy these games, I am a sucker for RPG's and games with good stories. It's just that I am now in a different phase in my life.  
 
Final Fantasy was my very first encounter with Fantasy themes in general. I grew up in Suriname, South America so that interest came pretty late to me. Where most people got introduced to Fantasy themes by Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons, to me it was Final Fantasy. I remember being totally engrossed by it and all my friends were into the ninja gaidens (me as well) and the horizontal/vertical shooters at the time and they just didn't my fascination with people walking forward & hitting air. But I loved it! The battles played out in my head as many movies nowadays depict and I loved the story however flimsy it was at the time.  
 
Then the Super nes hit and we heard about this new Final Fantasy with an insane story and the prettiest graphics ever seen. I heard that somebody got it when he visited the States and he was willing to lend me his copy for some game of mine. I cycled for 45 minutes to his house to go borrow it and played through it in a couple of days. I was 14 or so at the time. 
 
Fast forward a bit and it's the PS1 era. I had just moved to the Netherlands (for University) and saw all these commercials for Final Fantasy 7 and got unbelievably hyped! I pre-ordered the game without even owning a PS1. I had the thing for 1 or 2 months without even having a Playstation! When visiting my folks for holidays my dad gave me 500 guilders to buy  a PC for my studies. Guess what I blew it on...  I was still in my first year so I explored every nook & cranny of that game. Got the Knights of the Round summon and got all my characters up to level 99. (I still have that save-file somewhere) I remember coming back from dancing and having my (then) girlfriend sleep in my lap as I ground out a couple of levels.
 
Final Fantasy Tactics came to me in a time where I had just switched studies. Since I had passed most of the courses of the new study already I had a lot of free time on my hands and played that thing to death. I loved the strategic challenge and the story had some great twists in it, although it was a bit hard to follow the thread at times. I replayed the remake Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions when I was back home (in Suriname) for an extended period of time in 2007. I played all the way to the ending, to the part where they tell you: You won't be able to go back after this, do you want to save? And I saved OVER my original save. And then I didn't stand a chance against the last boss. 50 hours down the drain. That's how we learn right? 
 
What do all of these playthroughs have in common? I had loads of free time! Free time is now a big luxury since me & my girlfriend run our own business. So I just don't have the time to play through those Final Fantasies. But they remind me of a time where  a world of wonder had just opened up and I could lose myself to a different world. A reason why I still game and collect games to this day. Nowadays I find myself going to games I can quickly play for 15 minutes or half an hour max, Like Starcraft 2 or daily quests in WoW. But I'll play through these one day, even if I am already 60 and have more time on my hands!  
 

Final Fantasy games I own

All the Final Fantasy games I have collected over the years

1. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Got the Platinum version of this.

2. Final Fantasy

Got the remake on the PSP. (which I really like)

3. Final Fantasy II

Got the remake on the PSP. (which I really like)

4. Final Fantasy III
5. Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls
6. Final Fantasy IV
7. Final Fantasy IX

Own this one twice. A US import version and the Playstation store one

8. Final Fantasy Tactics
9. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
10. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
11. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
12. Final Fantasy V
13. Final Fantasy VII
14. Final Fantasy VIII

Own this one twice. A US import version and the Playstation store one

15. Final Fantasy X
16. Final Fantasy X-2
17. Final Fantasy XII
18. Final Fantasy XIII

For the Xbox 360 (You can see the compression in the renedered video, but I am still a sucker for those achievements)

19. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
20. Final Fantasy XI Online

Own this one on the PC as well as the Xbox360

21. Final Fantasy XI Online: Chains of Promathia

Own this one on the PC as well as the Xbox360

22. Final Fantasy XI Online: Rise of Zilart

Own this one on the PC as well as the Xbox360

23. Final Fantasy XI Online: Treasures of Aht Urhgan

Own this one on the PC as well as the Xbox360

24. Final Fantasy XI Online: Wings of the Goddess

Own this one on the PC as well as the Xbox360

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FF XIII

Front cover of Final Fantasy XIII (EU) for Xbox 360
So I am now 10 hours into FFXIII and i don't really get what the hubub was all about. Sure it's very linear, but to me the Final Fantasies have always been linear in one way or another. This time you really get nowhere else to go then forward, but back in the day if you would venture off of the road you were supposed to be on the higher level monsters would punish you severely by 1-shotting you. But then again I am a very positive person looking for the best things in everything including videogames.  
 
I like the battle-system in FFXIII. To me the grinding has been replaced with handling the battles strategically. The better you perform in a battle, the bigger your rewards, the faster you can level up your weapons and through Crystarium points. Fair and interesting trade-off if you ask me. The paradigm shifts are essential and Odin brought me down several times before I realized that i was losing because I didn't have one specific paradigm in my list. Which is the equivalent of not being able to defeat a boss in earlier Final Fantasies because your level wasn't high enough. The cool thing about this Final Fantasy is that it's all about strategy instead of outlevelling/outgearing the boss.  
 
I also really like the stagger mechanic, it just emphasizes something I would already do in older Final Fantasies, namely Libra the enemy to find out it's weakness and exploit that. Now you HAVE to do that for certain enemies if you want to defeat them. There is a big difference in how the battles play out and their length depending on whether or not you stagger the enemy.  
 
And the one thing I really like about the game is the way the story plays out. Maybe it isn't the most epic story (yet, i am 10 hours in) but I like the way they handle it's presentation.  
 
In short, I am enjoying this game! And to add another bonus, I picked this game up new for 15 euros. That's a steal! 
 
Maybe that's why I enjoy this game so much? Maybe I would've joined the pitchfork mob if I had paid 60 euros for the game.
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